It’s hard to find delicious apricots in Massachusetts–usually I’m limited to whatever the grocery store has shipped in from California, and while plenty large these are often mealy and flavorless. Apricots are notoriously poor travelers, and much like strawberries, flavor gets sacrificed for sturdiness–and the ability to travel cross-country.
So I go a little crazy during those few short weeks when the Red Jacket Orchard apricots from upstate New York come in at the grocery store, and even crazier when the farmer’s markets have apricots on display. (It’s a good year for fruit!). So it was that I bought about seven pounds of apricots and carried them home on the commuter rail–the majority dedicated to an apricot-cardamom jam. True to their delicate nature, a few still remained for eating fresh out of hand, but the rest were bruised from their commute–feeling, perhaps, much as we all do after a long day? No way could these be wasted, so little surprise what comes next: I found myself baking!
As you know, I love baking with ricotta–it adds a wonderful springiness as well as sturdiness to baked goods. More prosaically, we were about to go on vacation and the expiry date on the tub was nigh. There’s plenty of cheesecake-apricot recipes on the web, but I had the urge to make one of those snacking cakes that can acceptably be eaten at breakfast. I found this recipe on the blog Seasonal Desserts, and made a few tweaks of my own, adding a bit of whole grain flour and a splash of rose water.
As you can see from my shoddily-lit instagram photo above, the cake looks rather flat and unsubstantial in batter form–be not dismayed, as you have ample proof it bakes up beautifully. You can also see that no matter how unphotogenically you’ve arranged your apricot halves, the result is nonetheless stunning. Don’t you love it when that happens?
I’ve provided Maria Teresa’s suggested amount of apricots (six to eight) but if you are using local fruits you might have a variety of sizes. Just fit as many halves as you can over the surface, bake, and enjoy.
Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake
- 1 1/2 cups spelt flour
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons, divided
- zest of 2 lemons
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 250 grams ricotta 
- 1 teaspoon rose water
- 6-8 apricots, washed, divided in half and stone removed
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a 9-inch round cake or springform pan and place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom.
- In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Place the eggs, zests and the sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale and thick, about 3 minutes.
- Set the mixer to its lowest speed and beat in the ricotta.
- Add the sifted dry ingredients, beating only until they are incorporated.
- Pour about the batter into the prepared pan. Place as many apricots as you can fit on top of the batter and sprinkle them with the extra sugar.
- Bake the cake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.
- Carefully remove the sides of the springform pan and let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.
As I’ve told you, one of my very favorite recipes of all time is Rhubarb Crisp (though Karen likes it with strawberries thrown in). The tartness of the rhubarb set off against a crunchy, buttery brown sugar topping? It’s a dessert I can eat way past the point when I know I’ve definitively overindulged. Then I’ll call Karen or Marie and tell them how I ate enough to make myself ‘sick’ and they’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. (What are sisters for if not to share the mundane as well as the lofty with?)
Because it’s in essence just rhubarb, sugar, and butter, it’s delicious, but it’s not exactly something I can get away with eating for breakfast. Well, not legitimately anyway (i.e. I’m not saying I haven’t done it). But–sprinkled on top of a cake? Why, it’s just as appropriate as a muffin or a pancake. (I mean, we can question how wholesome an idea it is to be eating muffins and pancakes for breakfast with any regularity, but at least if you must overindulge, doing so at breakfast appears to be the least damaging to your waistline).
Many recipes call for sour cream or buttermilk, but since I had ricotta on hand I figured that I’d give that a shot–and I’ve loved the result of ricotta in baked goods before–remember this old post? (And if you’re still wondering, it’s Smitten Kitchen approved; need i say more?). I wanted to use up some semolina flour so I threw that in as well. Semolina is high in gluten (which is why it’s so great for making pasta) so it’s not always the ideal choice for more tender baked goods, but I thought it might add a nice rustic texture and that the acidity of the ricotta would tenderize it and work out any rough edges. I was pleased with the result, but feel free to use regular all-purpose flour.
Now despite my paean to rhubarb here, I think this cake is a perfect base for any fruit you’d like–rhubarb for spring, peaches or nectarines for fall? The cake itself is mild in flavor and well-structured and thus will happily pair with whatever seasonal bounty you have on hand. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the rhubarb while it lasts.
If you’re looking for more ideas for rhubarb, check out one of my favorite blogs, Relishing It. Laurie has got tons of great ideas (and taught me that you can freeze rhubarb to enjoy it year round). There’s also our rhubarb-rose ice cream here and our pinterest page with rhubarb ideas here.
Rhubarb Ricotta Cake
- 1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces along the diagonal
- 1 1/3 cup sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice and zest of one lemon
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup semolina flour (substitute an additional cup of flour)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1 cup ricotta
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (I used muscovado with a bit of white)
- 1/8 teaspoon table salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan with butter or a nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper, extending the lengths up two sides. (It will look like a sling). Stir together rhubarb, lemon juice and 2/3 cup sugar and set aside. Beat butter, remaining sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at at time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon table salt together in a small bowl. Add one-third of this mixture to the batter, mixing until just combined. Continue, adding half the ricotta, the second third of the flour mixture, the remaining ricotta, and then the remaining flour mixture, mixing between each addition until just combined.
- Dollop batter over prepared pan, then use a spatula — offset, if you have one, makes this easiest — to spread the cake into an even, thin layer. Pour the rhubarb mixture over the cake, spreading it into an even layer (most pieces should fit in a tight, single layer).
- Stir together the crumb mixture, first whisking the flour, brown sugar, table salt and cinnamon together, then stirring in the melted butter with a spoon or fork. Scatter evenly over rhubarb layer. Bake cake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes. The cake is done when a tester comes out free of the wet cake batter below. It will be golden on top. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.
- Cut the two exposed sides of the cake free of the pan, if needed, then use the parchment “sling” to remove the cake from the pan. Cut into 2-inch squares and go ahead and eat the first one standing up. (If it’s written into the recipe, it’s not “sneaking” a piece but, in fact, following orders, right?) Share the rest with friends. Cake keeps at room temperature for a few days, but I didn’t mind it at all from the fridge, where I kept it covered tightly.
I took a class a month or so ago at the Brooklyn Kitchen about 20 minute meals with a twist. Basically, it’s all about this idea that we make meals for ourselves that are really boring and have no zest or life in them. I think this is definitely true for me! I made this appetizer last night before dinner and thought I’d share. I was also really excited about making it because we now have fresh mint from our herb garden which I used in the meal.
Very easy to make. This is a recipe I took from Twenty Dollar Twenty Minute Meals by Caroline Wright.
2 cups of beans (fava preferably)
salt and pepper
red wine vinegar
Heat broiler. While you do this boil 1/2 cup of salter water. Then put 2 cups of drained fava beans (I had to use Lima because I couldn’t find any fava at the local grocery store I was at.) in the skillet for about 5 minutes. Drain the beans and then add salt, pepper and oil and a tablespoon of red wine vinegar with 1/4 cup of mint.
Once finished, toast the bread. When the bread is finished toast the cheese on the bread and the bean mixture on top!
I really suggest trying to find fresh fava beans because I think they make the difference. I also think maybe adding some diced red onions would add a nice bite to this mix and some added flavor and color.
Try it out-let us know what you think!
If you are interested in knowing more about the cookbook, click here to an earlier post I wrote about the recipes and class I took.